Curtain's up: Carrara at St. James restaurant targets theatregoers

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: St. james, Restaurant

The Carrara at St. James restaurant has opened in the first theatre complex built in central London for 30 years
The Carrara at St. James restaurant has opened in the first theatre complex built in central London for 30 years
A new restaurant - Carrara at St. James - has officially opened within the first theatre complex to be built in central London for 30 years.

The 62-cover eatery had a soft-launch in September 2012 when the St. James Theatre near Buckingham Palace opened its doors.

Following its official launch, the management of the restaurant are now aiming to attract a mix of theatregoers and destination diners to the venue.

Pre-theatre mindset

Speaking to BigHospitality, Christopher Waterhouse, the venue's general manager, said: "We had the chance in the latter half of last year to introduce the sort of things we plan to do (as a theatre). So coming into the New Year was an ideal time for us to properly rebrand the restaurant and announce what we are going to be doing.

"It has been a really valuable few months to get a feel for what the audience want and begin to tailor what we are offering in response to what we hear from them. The different audiences do have different demands."

The complex houses a 312-seat theatre, 100-seat studio space and a TV broadcast facility. The restaurant team, led by head chef René Cahane, are catering for Carrara as well as a ground-floor bar and brasserie plus the venue's event and meeting facilities.

"One of the big challenges is the mindset on the part of the audience to understand it is not just one thing - that pre-theatre is only one part of what we are doing, they could come back on another night.

"It (destination dining) is as important to us as the theatre part of the business," Waterhouse added.

Targeting theatregoers

Carrara at St. James is relatively unique in the capital as one of the only premium restaurants located within a theatre. However many of the capital's hospitality businesses look to benefit from pre-theatre dining and drinking - so what are Waterhouse's top tips on attracting and pleasing theatregoers?

  • Options - offer a set menu or lighter bites so people have a choice of quick dining options. However, avoid too much choice which can slow the ordering process.
  • Limitations - space and time will be limited for pre-theatre diners so think realistically about what you can provide.
  • Think creatively - theatregoers tend to be creative people so factor that in to the menu design.
  • Theme - not every audience for a play is the same so if you are near a particular theatre, do some research on what is showing and think what that type of audience would like - maybe consider a themed menu.
  • Money - theatregoers will be spending a lot in an evening without a meal so make the dinner affordable - get it right and they might come back for a full-price meal at another time.

The menu at Carrara at St. James showcases classic British cuisine with an Italian twist.

The restaurant itself, which is open for lunch and dinner six days a week, features a design fusing theatre, art and culinary influences - a six-tonne sculptural Carrara marble staircase is the centrepiece of the venue which has already catered for Eddie Izzard, Lenny Henry and Jools Holland.

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